About Beauty Pageants Involving Children

by Shelly Barclay
Young girls in pageants may receive a lot of attention and awards for their participation.

Young girls in pageants may receive a lot of attention and awards for their participation.

Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Beauty pageants are contests in which women or girls typically compete, though there are some pageants for men and boys. The main focus of these contests is the physical appearance of the girls or women competing. The contests often involve modeling different outfits, smiling and otherwise displaying pleasant appearances. However, the contestants may also have to answer questions or demonstrate a talent. Children's beauty pageants are not much different from adult beauty pageants.

Makeup, Hair and Clothing

Beauty pageants that involve children have age groups up to 17-years-old. There are pageants for babies, toddlers, children, preteens and teens. Contestants in beauty pageants above the baby age group typically wear makeup and have their hair in styles reminiscent of those worn by women. The clothing worn depends on the pageant. Typically, they call for a variety of outfits from categories such as evening gowns, swimsuits and sportswear. In some pageants, children can wear fake teeth, fake hair, fake nails and have spray tans. Some pageant producers even recommend these items.

Potential Effects

The risks for putting children in beauty pageants affect both parents and children. Fees to enter pageants and the clothes worn in them cost parents hundreds of dollars minimum. Adding in travel costs, some of the accessories and expensive clothing some parents buy and a single pageant can cost roughly 3,000 dollars. Children pay an equally heavy price, losing playtime and even schoolwork time, in some cases. It can cause children to focus too much on their looks, which may lead to self-esteem issues and eating disorders. Winners may have a boost in confidence, but losers can see themselves as less pretty than they see other children because of lost pageants.

Pop Culture

Television reality shows, such as "Toddlers in Tiaras," highlight what beauty pageants are for children. In these shows, beautiful children dress up like dolls while their parents preen over them, encourage them or coerce them into participating. The shows often paint a negative picture of pageant life that may be true to life or dramatized for television. In 1996, an unknown killer murdered a six-year-old beauty pageant queen named Jonbenet Ramsey. Her name has since become synonymous with the dangers of pageantry. Though no one knows who killed her and why, the media often assumes that her death had something to do with all of the pageants she was in, as well as the clothing and makeup she wore for those pageants. Evidence showed that she was likely a victim of chronic sexual abuse.


Because of the dress up involved in children's beauty pageants, as well as the pressure put on children to look pretty, there is controversy over whether putting children in pageants is healthy for them. There is also some concern as to whether dressing young girls up like woman attracts pedophiles. Since the death of Jonbenet Ramsey and the advent of pageant reality shows, these concerns have garnered widespread media attention.

About the Author

Shelly Barclay began writing in 1990, focusing on fiction. She has been writing nonfiction articles since 2008. Her work appears on various websites, focusing on topics such as history, cooking, scrapbooking, travel and animals. Before she began writing, Barclay was a line cook for 10 years.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images